Iranian vice president’s Nicaragua visit spurs outrage in Latin America

Iranian vice president’s Nicaragua visit spurs outrage in Latin America
Mohsen Rezaee, vice president for economic affairs, represented Iran at Ortega’s inauguration on Monday. (File/AFP)
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Updated 15 January 2022

Iranian vice president’s Nicaragua visit spurs outrage in Latin America

Iranian vice president’s Nicaragua visit spurs outrage in Latin America
  • Mohsen Rezaee part of group accused of masterminding 1994 terror attack in Argentina
  • OAS official tells Arab News Nicaragua should have detained him as per Interpol red alert

SAO PAOLO: The attendance of an Iranian vice president at the inaugural ceremony of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega has spurred outrage among the Latin American Jewish community.

Mohsen Rezaee, vice president for economic affairs, represented Iran at Ortega’s inauguration on Monday.

The Sandinista leader, who has ruled the Central American country since 2007, was sworn in for his fourth consecutive mandate.

Rezaee, who led the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps for 16 years, is part of a group of Iranian officials who allegedly masterminded the 1994 bombing of the building of the Argentine Israeli Mutual Association, known by the Spanish acronym AMIA.

The detonation of a truck loaded with explosives killed 85 people and left more than 200 injured at the Jewish center in Buenos Aires, a city with an estimated population of 200,000 Jews, the largest such community in Latin America.

A long inquiry carried out by Argentinian authorities with the help of Israeli and US intelligence resulted in Judge Rodolfo Canicoba Corral’s 2006 arrest order against former Iranian President Ali Rafsanjani and other senior officials, including Rezaee.

A member of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah was also part of Canicoba’s arrest warrant. Since 2007, the group behind the bombing has been on the Interpol wanted list. 

The attack on AMIA was the second terrorist bombing of Jewish targets in Argentina. Two years earlier, in 1992, an explosion at the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires killed 29 people.

The charges against Rezaee were further strengthened by his own son Ahmad, who left Iran for the US in 1998 and told American authorities that the attack was planned by Tehran and that Hezbollah was involved.

After a short period in the US, he returned to Iran and retracted his previous claims. He was found dead in a Dubai hotel in 2011.

Rezaee rejected the Argentinian charges as “a sheer lie” in an interview to the Los Angeles Times in 2009. He said he had been traveling internationally and had never had any problem.

Indeed, his visit to Nicaragua has not led to his detention. He not only attended the inauguration, but also had a meeting with Ortega, his wife and Vice President Rosario Murillo on Thursday, Sandinista newspaper E19 reported.

Fernando Lottenberg, the Organization of the American States’ commissioner to monitor and combat antisemitism, issued a formal repudiation of Rezaee’s trip to Nicaragua, emphasizing that he “is under the Interpol red alert and Nicaragua, as a member of such an institution, must carry out the detention order.”

Lottenberg, formerly head of the Brazilian Israelite Confederation, told Arab News that he and other members of the Latin American Jewish community are worried about the apparent closeness of Iran and some of the region’s nations.

“The Iranians have a long-lasting relationship with Venezuela. It seems that this process is reaching other countries,” he said.

“Rezaee attended Ortega’s inaugural ceremony and also took pictures with the Cuban leader Miguel Diaz-Canel.”

The Jewish community is “worried about such relations established by nations in our region with an antisemitic and dictatorial regime,” Lottenberg said.

He added that while Nicaragua announced in November 2021 its intention to leave the OAS, the country still has to fulfill its obligations with the organization for two years. “It’s not an automatic process,” he explained.

AMIA released a statement on Tuesday reaffirming its demand for “rigorous monitoring of the Iranian defendants when they leave their country, so that they cannot move freely through nations that protect them.”

The statement added: “Almost 28 years after the attack on its headquarters, AMIA reiterates its unwavering commitment to the search for justice and to the demand that those responsible for the crime against humanity carried out be tried with the constitutional guarantees established by the law of our country.”

AMIA said Argentina’s Ambassador to Nicaragua Daniel Capitanich attended the ceremony and “did not leave the premises nor alerted the authorities on such a serious situation.”

Over the past few days, opposition members of Congress in Argentina have condemned President Alberto Fernandez’s administration for sending Capitanich to the inauguration.

The Argentinian Chancellery said Capitanich did not know that Rezaee would be present. Later, Argentina’s Foreign Ministry released a statement protesting Rezaee’s presence.

Russian forces turn sights on Lysychansk in battle for eastern Ukraine

Russian forces turn sights on Lysychansk in battle for eastern Ukraine
Updated 18 sec ago

Russian forces turn sights on Lysychansk in battle for eastern Ukraine

Russian forces turn sights on Lysychansk in battle for eastern Ukraine
  • Russian missiles strike Kyiv for first time in weeks as G7 countries meet in Germany
  • US expected to announce advanced medium to long range SAM defense system for Ukraine

KYIV/POKROVSK, Ukraine: Russian forces were fighting on Monday to achieve one of their strategic objectives in Ukraine as Moscow-backed separatists said they were pushing into Lysychansk, the last major city still held by Ukrainian troops in eastern Luhansk province.
Lysychansk’s twin city of Sievierodonetsk fell on Saturday in a victory for Moscow’s campaign to seize the eastern provinces of Luhansk and Donetsk on behalf of pro-Russian separatists.
Tass news agency on Sunday quoted a separatist official as saying Moscow’s forces had entered Lysychansk from five directions and were isolating Ukrainian defenders. Reuters could not confirm the report.
The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces said Russian forces were using artillery to try to cut off Lysychansk from the south but made no mention of separatists entering the city.
Elena, an elderly woman from Lysychansk, was among dozens of evacuees who arrived in the Ukrainian-held town of Pokrovsk by bus from frontline areas.

“Lysychansk, it was a horror, the last week. Yesterday we could not take it any more,” she said. “I already told my husband if I die, please bury me behind the house.”
The RIA agency quoted a separatist official as saying separatist forces had evacuated more than 250 people, including children, on Sunday from Sievierodonetsk’s Azot chemical plant.
The industrial area was the last part of Sievierodonetsk held by Ukrainian forces before they withdrew on Saturday after weeks of heavy fighting which left the town in ruins.

Kyiv hit again
Russian missiles struck an apartment block and close to a kindergarten in Kyiv on Sunday as world leaders gathered in Germany to discuss further sanctions against Moscow.
Deputy Mayor Mykola Povoroznyk said one person was killed and six wounded in the first Russian attack on the capital in weeks.
In his nightly address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said a wounded seven-year-old girl was pulled from the rubble of a nine-story apartment block. The girl’s father was killed in the strike, he said.
“She was not threatened by anything in our country. She was completely safe, until Russia itself decided that everything was equally hostile to them now — women, children, kindergartens, houses, hospitals, railways,” Zelensky said.
A Ukrainian air force spokesperson said the strike was carried out with four to six long-range missiles fired from bombers more than 1,000 km (621 miles) away in southern Russia.
US President Joe Biden called the strikes acts of “barbarism,” as leaders from the Group of Seven nations gathered for a summit in Germany. Russia denies targeting civilians.

Demonstrator march in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, on June 26, 2022 in support of Ukraine as G7 leaders meet in the nearby Bavarian alpine resort of Schloss Elmau castle. (REUTERS)

Other G7 leaders mocked Russian President Vladimir Putin as they gathered for a group photograph at the summit.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson suggested the leaders bare their chests and “show them our pecs” in reference to Putin’s shirtless poses over the years, including on horseback.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said: “We’re going to get the bare-chested horseback riding display.” European Union President Ursula von der Leyen replied: “Oh yes. Horseback riding is the best.”
Britain, Canada, Japan and the United States proposed a ban on imports of gold from Russia, aimed at wealthy Russians who have been buying safe-haven bullion to reduce the financial impact of Western sanctions.
The leaders gathered in the Bavarian Alps are also expected to discuss a possible price cap on Russian oil and efforts to tackle soaring global food and energy prices.
The United States is likely to announce this week the purchase of an advanced medium to long range surface-to-air missile defense system for Ukraine, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters on Sunday.

Missiles hit central city
Russian missiles also on Sunday struck the central city of Cherkasy, which until now had been largely untouched by bombardment, according to authorities who said one person was killed and five others wounded.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said the attack also hit a strategic bridge linking western Ukraine and the eastern battlefields.
“They are trying to limit the transfer of our reserves and Western weapons to the east,” he told Reuters.
Russia’s defense ministry said it had used high-precision weapons to strike military training centers in the regions of Chernihiv, Zhytomyr and Lviv, an apparent reference to strikes reported by Ukraine on Saturday. There was no immediate comment about Sunday’s strikes on Kyiv or Cherkasy.
Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24 in what the Kremlin called a “special military operation” to rid the country of far-right nationalists and ensure Russian security.
Kyiv and the West dismiss that as a baseless pretext for a war of choice that has killed thousands, sent millions fleeing Ukraine and destroyed cities.
The conflict has driven up gas, oil and food prices, pushed the European Union to reduce reliance on Russian energy, and prompted Finland and Sweden to seek NATO membership.
Russia edged closer to a default on Sunday amid little sign that investors holding its international bonds had received payment, heralding what would be the nation’s first default in decades.

NATO to pledge aid to Baltics and Ukraine, urge Turkey to let in Nordics

NATO to pledge aid to Baltics and Ukraine, urge Turkey to let in Nordics
Updated 15 min 48 sec ago

NATO to pledge aid to Baltics and Ukraine, urge Turkey to let in Nordics

NATO to pledge aid to Baltics and Ukraine, urge Turkey to let in Nordics
  • NATO summit over three days in Madrid; Turkey’s veto over Sweden, Finland application a big issue
  • NATO to agree new defenses for Baltic region; aid package to Ukraine aims for longer-term support

MADRID: NATO leaders will urge Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan to lift his veto over Finland and Sweden’s bid to join the military alliance when they meet for a three-day summit on Tuesday, as the West strives to send Russia and China a signal of resolve.
Taking place in the shadow of Russia’s war in Ukraine, the Madrid gathering comes at a pivotal moment for the transatlantic bond after failures in Afghanistan and internal discord during the era of former US President Donald Trump, who threatened to pull Washington out of the nuclear alliance.
Negotiations among an often-fractious organization are still under way, diplomats said, but leaders also hope to agree to provide more military aid to Ukraine, increase joint defense spending, cement a new resolve to tackle China’s military rise and put more troops on stand-by to defend the Baltics.
Spain, whose king will host a dinner for leaders, is also pushing for more NATO focus on the southern flank to address migration and militant groups in the Sahel region of Africa.
The leaders of Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea are expected to attend part of the summit, part of a broader US strategy for a more assertive Western presence in the Indo-Pacific region to counter China.
“We will do more to ensure we can defend every inch of allied territory, at all times and against any threat,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in a speech last week.

Although British and US officials have advised against a Baltic request for permanent multinational forces in the region, the summit is likely to settle on a compromise of promising rapid reinforcements.
Germany has already said it will put more troops at the ready to defend Lithuania should Russia seek to seize NATO territory and Britain is expected to do the same for Estonia, while Latvia is looking to Canada to pledge more troops there.

Turkey veto
NATO — created in 1949 to counter the Soviet threat — is under no treaty obligation to defend Ukraine, as the former Soviet republic is not a NATO member.
But Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Feb. 24 invasion has sparked a geopolitical shift as once neutral countries Finland and Sweden seek to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and Ukraine has formally become a candidate to join the European Union.
If accepted, Finland and Sweden’s inclusion into NATO would bring about the expansion of the alliance that the Russian leader aimed to prevent.
“I think it sends an important message to Putin. And I think it would actually significantly strengthen the alliance,” US Senator Angus King said of Finland and Sweden, following a trip to Finland, Latvia and Turkey.
However, Turkey is also testing that unity, angered by what it says is Helsinki and Stockholm’s support for Kurdish militants and arms embargoes on Ankara.
A Turkish government official involved in the talks between the three countries and NATO’s Stoltenberg told Reuters it would be difficult to reach a deal at the summit, saying that Sweden and Finland must first address Turkish concerns.
“There were meetings, but unfortunately steps we expected are not being taken,” the official said.
Sweden has set up a process for ongoing consultations, diplomats said. But two senior NATO diplomats said the dispute was less about technical benchmarks and more about politics.
Erdogan’s stance has proved popular at home before a June 2023 presidential election as he seeks to challenge US and European priorities. In recent weeks, he has threatened more military operations in northern Syria, stoked tensions with fellow NATO member Greece and declined to join Western sanctions on Russia over the Ukraine war.
“I think there’s nearly zero chance that this issue will be resolved at the Madrid summit,” said Soner Cagaptay, a Turkey analyst at the Washington Institute, a US think-tank.
US President Joe Biden could hold a meeting with Erdogan in the margins of the NATO summit to push for progress with Finland and Sweden, whose leaders will be in Madrid.
But Cagaptay added that Erdogan could try to use the situation to boost his popularity and call a possible snap election in November ahead of the official June 2023 vote. 

4 killed when stands collapse during Colombian bullfight

4 killed when stands collapse during Colombian bullfight
Updated 27 June 2022

4 killed when stands collapse during Colombian bullfight

4 killed when stands collapse during Colombian bullfight
  • The disaster took place in a stadium in the city of El Espinal in Tolima state during a traditional event called “corraleja”

BOGOTA, Colombia: Part of the wooden stands collapsed during a bullfight in central Colombia Sunday, sending spectators plunging to the ground and killing at least four people and seriously injuring about 30, authorities said.
The disaster took place in a stadium in the city of El Espinal in Tolima state during a traditional event called “corraleja” in which members of the public enter the ring to engage the bulls.
Videos taken during the bullfight show a three-story section of the stands collapsing as people screamed.
“We have activated the hospital network in Tolima,” Tolima Gov. José Ricardo Orozco told local Blu Radio. “Four people have died, as of this moment: two women, a man and a minor.”
Authorities said about 30 people had been seriously injured
Orozco said he had asked for the traditional “corralejas” to be suspended in Tolima earlier Sunday but this one was held anyway.
President-elect Gustavo Petro urged local officials to ban such events, noting that it was not the first time an incident like this had taken place.
“I ask mayors not to allow more events involving the death of people or animals,” he said.
Current President Iván Duque on Twitter announced an investigation of the disaster.
“We lament the terrible tragedy registered in El Espinal, Tolima, during the festivals of San Pedro and San Juan, with the collapse of the stands during a corraleja. We will call for an investigation.”

Sri Lanka struggles to secure new fuel shipments as supply runs dry

Sri Lanka struggles to secure new fuel shipments as supply runs dry
Updated 27 June 2022

Sri Lanka struggles to secure new fuel shipments as supply runs dry

Sri Lanka struggles to secure new fuel shipments as supply runs dry
  • About 70 percent of gas stations across the island closed 
  • Government will send ministers to Russia to discuss urgently needed imports  

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka is struggling to secure fresh supplies of fuel, the energy minister said on Sunday, with the crisis-hit country fast running out of petrol and diesel to keep essential services running. 

For months, the island nation of 22 million people has lacked the foreign currency to pay for essential imports, including fuel, food and medicine. Amid the chronic shortages, Sri Lankans have formed long queues outside pumping stations, with some waiting in line for days. 

Sri Lanka’s Power and Energy Minister, Kanchana Wijesekera, said that the country is now down to just 15,000 tons of petrol and diesel, while 70 percent of fuel stations have closed due to delays in expected shipments. 

“We are struggling to find suppliers. They are reluctant to accept letters of credit from our banks. There are over $700 million in overdue payments, so now suppliers want advance payments,” he told reporters. 

“The remaining stock will be finished soon.”

In the past two months, Sri Lanka has received its fuel supply via a $500 million credit line from India that ran out in mid-June. A petrol shipment due last Thursday failed to arrive and officials are unable to confirm the next delivery, Wijesekera said. 

The military will begin issuing tokens to people queuing for fuel on Monday.

Meanwhile, the government will send ministers to Russia to discuss fuel imports and has told 1 million public employees to work from home until further notice. 

Sri Lanka also increased fuel prices in the early hours of Sunday, with the price hike expected to further push inflation, already running at 40 percent. 

The fuel crisis is also affecting medical services in the country, as both patients and healthcare workers struggle to reach hospitals due to the shortages. 

“Staff attendance today was remarkably low,” Omar Sheriff, CEO of Colombo’s largest kidney facility, told Arab News. “And outpatients have dropped from 300 to 40.” 

Pathmanathan, who drives a three-wheel taxi in Colombo, said that he waited in line for 12 hours from Saturday afternoon, only to be turned back as he almost reached the fuel station. 

“I lost my daily wage waiting for fuel in the queue on Saturday,” he told Arab News.

“Today, Sunday, I was informed that the oil price had risen again. I just can’t understand how we can charge so much money in fares to our customers,” Pathmanathan said. “It’s very sad.” 

UK heir Prince Charles accepted cash in suitcase from Qatari sheikh: Report

UK heir Prince Charles accepted cash in suitcase from Qatari sheikh: Report
Updated 27 June 2022

UK heir Prince Charles accepted cash in suitcase from Qatari sheikh: Report

UK heir Prince Charles accepted cash in suitcase from Qatari sheikh: Report
  • The Prince of Wales's Charitable Fund (PWCF) received the payments

LONDON: The heir to the British throne Prince Charles accepted a suitcase of cash as a charitable donation from the former prime minister of Qatar, UK media claimed on Sunday.

The Sunday Times reported that three bundles of cash were given as charitable donations from Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al-Thani to the Prince of Wales.

The three lots, which totalled €3 million ($3.16 million), were handed to the prince personally between 2011 and 2015, the paper reported.

Despite no suggestion of any illegal payments, according to the paper, Sheikh Hamad, 62, presented the prince with €1m packed into carrier bags from the luxury department store Fortnum & Mason.

The Prince of Wales's Charitable Fund (PWCF) received the payments, according to the report, including an entity that bankrolls the prince's private projects and his country estate in Scotland.

Clarence House has released a statement following the report, saying: “Charitable donations received from Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim were passed immediately to one of the prince's charities who carried out the appropriate governance and have assured us that all the correct processes were followed.”